Rosemont, Ill. — On the heels of a 2013-14 season that included a trip to the women's NIT, Michigan coach Kim Barnes-Arico is looking to take a step up.
Michigan won 20 games for consecutive seasons for the first time, and with seniors Cyesha Goree, Nicole Elmblad and Shannon Smith, it could make it three straight.
"It's exciting to have those players returning," Barnes-Arico said. "(Especially) Cyesha. She came in really and didn't play a lot prior to last year and finished the season as a second-team all-conference player."
Goree (12.1 points) and Elmblad (11.4 points) were two of the top returning scorers last season, but also add an edge in rebounding. Goree averaged 9.3 rebounds, while Elmblad was at 7.6. Elmblad also was second with 103 assists and tied for first with 45 steals.
But there will be a lot of emphasis on trying to help the young roster get up to speed quickly and learn the culture. That responsibility falls on Goree and Elmblad, in addition to the coaches.
"We have three seniors who have done a great job of being good leaders and setting an example with experience under their belt — but we have five freshmen," Barnes-Arico said.
And two new teams to contend with — Maryland, the favorite to win the conference, and Rutgers.
Having coached 10 seasons at St. John's in the Big East, Barnes-Arico has some familiarity with the newcomers.
"I feel as if I was a young coach, I would be intimidated and nervous about Maryland and Rutgers coming in," she said. "Through experience, the one thing you learn is to control what you can control and coach your team and try to bring in the best players you can and coach them up."